Using an iPod on Mac and Windows

Q: I have been syncing my iPod on my Mac computer. I recently purchased a laptop PC and am wondering if I can now sync my iPod with new tunes I have purchased on my PC. Further, can I go back and forth syncing music from my Mac and/or PC to my iPod without hurting or deleting my iPod and existing playlists/library?

– Leah

A: While this is possible, it may be a bit complicated to set up. The first problem is that when initially configuring an iPod on a Mac, it is configured with a disk format specific to the Mac operating system, and therefore cannot be read by a Windows computer at all. The result is that if you connect it to your Windows laptop, neither the Windows operating system or iTunes will recognize it as a valid device, and in fact Windows may even offer to format it for you, since it’s an unknown disk format. Obviously you don’t want to let Windows do this.

Although you cannot use a Mac-formatted iPod on a Windows PC, it is possible to use a Windows-formatted iPod on a Mac. You could convert your iPod to Windows format by connecting it to iTunes on your Windows PC and using the “Restore” option. This will, however, erase everything on your iPod, restoring it to its default factory out-of-the-box state. You will need to ensure that you have a backup of your music somewhere so that you can subsequently reload your iPod. If you still have all of your music in your iTunes library and are using automatic synchronization, this should not be too difficult to do.

If you don’t want to go through the time and effort of reformatting your iPod for Windows, and you’re only going to occasionally use it with your laptop, the other option is to purchase a copy of MediaFour’s MacDrive utility, which can be installed on your Windows PC laptop and will enable any Mac-formatted disk (including your iPod) to be accessed from Windows.

Whichever format you do choose to keep your iPod in, be aware that you will only be able to apply software updates to your iPod from the operating system that it is formatted for. In other words, if you have a Mac-formatted iPod, you will need to apply updates to your iPod from your Mac, and if you have a Windows-formatted iPod, you will need to apply these updates from your Windows PC.

Once you have your iPod and/or computers configured so that they can be read by either operating system, the next thing you have to keep in mind is that an iPod can only be automatically synchronized to a single computer. If you want to regularly add content from more than one computer, you will have to give up on automatic synchronization, and configure your iPod for manual management. In this mode, no content is automatically added to the iPod—instead you drag and drop specific content from your iTunes library onto your iPod. However, this mode allows you to do this from any computer you connect your iPod to.

To configure your iPod for manual management, simply select it in the iTunes source list, and choose the option “Manually manage my music and videos” from the “Summary” screen.

Using an iPod on Mac and Windows

Once set, this setting travels with the iPod, so it will remain in manual mode regardless of which computer you connect it to.

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